By: PATIENCE AHIMBISIBWE
Kampala: Students hoping to join institutions of higher learning but with financial difficulties can finally smile after President Museveni assented to the student loan scheme.
Ms Jessica Alupo, the Minister of Education, said they would send a memo to Cabinet so that the board can start appointing technical staff to help implement the scheme. “The President has assented to the student loan scheme. The first beneficiaries will start next semester,” Ms Alupo said on Friday at the closing of Senior one selection in Kampala.
Joweria Namutebi, a student at Kyambogo University, welcomed the move and hopes to apply to benefit from the State’s funds.
“It is a good idea because one studies without interruption knowing you will to repay after studies. Once you get the loan, you struggle to study and finish. You can think of the job and repay the loan later,” Ms Namutebi said.
The Ministry of Education student loan scheme board is expected to determine the repayment schedule, according to documents the Daily Monitor has seen.
Earlier, the ministry had proposed that the government ensures the beneficiaries are attached to government institutions so that the money is recovered, a matter that Cabinet did not take, according to sources.
A consultancy firm was hired to help define verifiable proxy indicators that will be used to access ones financial capacity to meet higher education costs. Identification of the needy will be through a ‘means test’. Finance minister Maria Kiwanuka allocated Shs5 billion to start the scheme.
Although Ms Elizabeth Gabona, the director for higher education, was happy with the development, but she had earlier been skeptical whether it will benefit the intended recipients. “What is still tricky is on how to access the real poor people who have done science subjects using the means test,” she said. Her fears had also been echoed by Makerere University Chancellor Mondo Kagonyera who warned the government that unless they put a mechanism to ensure the beneficiaries are employed after studies, it will be difficult to repay the money.
“The government has to begin building big jails if they have not established how people are going to repay. The whole thing is not thought out well. In our society, for one to get a job, its technical know who not technical know what,” Prof Kagonyera said.
Beneficiaries will only be students offering science courses like Bachelor of Nursing, Bachelor of Dentistry. However, Prof Kagonyera objects the proposal, saying the defining factor should be poverty not subjects an individual has done.